My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Book Review: The 57 Bus by Sashka Slater


Synopsis (From Goodreads):
One teenager in a skirt.
One teenager with a lighter.
One moment that changes both of their lives forever.

If it weren't for the 57 bus, Sasha and Richard never would have met. Both were high school students from Oakland, California, one of the most diverse cities in the country, but they inhabited different worlds. Sasha, a white teen, lived in the middle-class foothills and attended a small private school. Richard, a black teen, lived in the crime-plagued flatlands and attended a large public one. Each day, their paths overlapped for a mere eight minutes. But one afternoon on the bus ride home from school, a single reckless act left Sasha severely burned, and Richard charged with two hate crimes and facing life imprisonment. The case garnered international attention, thrusting both teenagers into the spotlight.

This is a book that we picked for our book club at A Great Good Place for Books, in Oakland, California.  As the book is a non-fiction, and actually occurred in Oakland, I found this deeply moving.  It helps that this is a written account by a reporter, fairly presenting both teenagers.

What I Liked:

Non-Judgemental Style:
The book presents the facts of the case, and the underlying circumstances, dispassionately.  This leaves the reader to interpret for themselves how they feel about what happened, and if the punishment fit the crime.

Background Information: 
In order to understand what happened, and why, it's very important to see these students lives leading up to the incident.  

For Sasha, the reader gets a wonderful education (including a glossary of terms) on non-binary sexual orientation.  We see how supportive and compassionate their parents are, which explains their actions after the incident.

For Richard, we see the environment that he is from.  This is never used as an excuse for his actions.  But by understanding his struggles with impulse control, and the type of friends he has, the reader can see how this might happen.

We also get an insight into the diversity that makes Oakland such a unique community.  There is no one type of Oakland resident.  There are poor, struggling single parents, and well-to-do hipsters.  Gangs and millionaires.  Kids who go to struggling schools, and those who attend elite private schools.  And most residents see a daily mix of all these types of people.

The Judicial System:
This book really explains the current state of our juvenile justice system and how some reforms are needed.  While most people in California want strong laws to punish hate crimes, most are unaware of the unintended consequences of these prosecutions.  The author also discusses how teens can be charged as adults, and why it may not always be the right choice.

What I Was Mixed About:

Restorative Justice:
While Slater did explain what restorative justice is, I wish she would have gone more deeply into what that would have looked like for Richard.  The one example of restorative justice she gives is helpful, but is about a minor situation.  Given the gravity of the offense, I couldn't see how it could be applied to this scenario.


Release Date:  October 17th, 2017

Genre:  Non-Fiction

Publisher:   Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers

Author:  Dashka Slater

Page Length:  320 Pages

Source:  Bought

Format:  Hardcover Book

Recommendation:  A strong reporting of an event that happened in an instant, but had a lifetime of ramifications for the people involved.  This will make you reassess what you think you know about our judicial system.
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2019 Reading Challenge
MsArdychan has read 10 books toward her goal of 120 books.


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